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Minor injury might keep Lightning's Drouin out of scrimmage

HE’S MESHING: Goalie Evgeni Nabokov is one of the veterans acquired in the offseason who are quickly fitting in, coach Jon Cooper says.
HE’S MESHING: Goalie Evgeni Nabokov is one of the veterans acquired in the offseason who are quickly fitting in, coach Jon Cooper says.
Published Sep. 21, 2014

TAMPA — Those fans expecting to see touted right wing prospect Jonathan Drouin at today's open practice and scrimmage in Brandon might be disappointed.

Drouin, the No. 3 overall draft pick in 2013, was held out of Saturday's practice due to an upper-body injury. His status is day to day, and though he might not participate in scrimmages the next two days, coach Jon Cooper said Drouin should return sometime this week, including playing in an exhibition game.

"This is not a long-term thing," Cooper said. "By no means is this serious. He'll for sure be back (this) week at some point."

Cooper said Drouin got "nicked up a little bit" with a "freak" injury sustained sometime since starting rookie camp Sept. 11. Though this is a big camp for Drouin, who is expected to have every opportunity to make the team, the injury won't hold him back because it occurred so early and is so minor, Cooper said.

"No alarm," Cooper said.

TRIAL RUN: With the Lightning's exhibition opener Tuesday against the Predators at Amalie Arena, scrimmages today (11:15 a.m.-noon at the Ice Sports Forum) and Monday will serve as preparation. Cooper wants to see players execute the subtle tweaks and changes that have been installed to their system in the first few practices.

"I know it's not going to be perfect and mistakes will be made," Cooper said. "But this is when you make the mistakes. We'll slowly try to implement the system, but you still want them to play with rigor and aggression."

The scrimmages also are showcases for players who are competing for spots or an NHL contract, as well as those who are new to the organization.

"It's a chance to go through game situations," D Victor Hedman said. "A lot of guys want to battle for jobs, battle for ice times. Obviously we're not going to go out there and kill each other, but it's going to be a high pace. It's going to be fun."

CHANGE IT UP: With most players having gone through one full season under Cooper, the staff is implementing subtle changes to the Lightning's system, which the players have been working on in practice. C Alex Killorn said most fans wouldn't notice the differences, some of which affect play in the neutral zone, but the basic tenets of speed and aggressiveness stay the same.

"All we are doing is raising the standard, raising the bar in what we do," Cooper said, "so I think that is a huge help for us and lets us maybe concentrate on some other areas that you just couldn't do last year. Now we bring in a couple of (news) guys to jump up to speed, but they all have a high hockey IQ, so I'm not worried about them. … I just feel that because of the familiarity, we are so much further ahead.''

BEING HEARD: Cooper knew about the veterans brought in during the offseason, D Jason Garrison, D Anton Stralman, C Brian Boyle, LW Brenden Morrow and G Evgeni Nabokov. But he has been pleased by how they've meshed so far.

"A lot of these guys, if you're watching closely, you can hear them all on the ice," Cooper said. "They're veterans, they talk, they've been around the league. It's great to have that kind of presence. They're also very approachable. They haven't walked in here and said, 'I played this many years in the league,' or 'I've done this' or 'I've been a captain.' It's quite the opposite. They've really tried to fit in with the group."

QUICK SWITCH: LW Jeff Costello, RW Joel Vermin and D Dominik Masin were moved up to one of the two main groups Saturday, as were D Kodie Curran and forwards Michael Aviani and Yanni Gourde, who took Drouin's spot on a line with C Tyler Johnson and RW Richard Panik. "We wanted everybody to get a taste," Cooper said. "There is a method to our madness."

OPEN UP: Today's practice at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon is the first of three that are open to the public during camp. The others are Sept. 27 at Fan Fest at Amalie Arena and Oct. 1 at Germain Arena in Estero.

Contact Joe Smith at joesmith@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.